03/23/2012 08:14 am ET

Heart Disease: The Single Biggest Health Threat To Women (VIDEO)

Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of American women.

That's a statistic that can be surprising, given how much more we hear about a disease like breast cancer, which has been supported by massive awareness-raising campaigns.

C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., director of the Women's Heart Center and the Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center in the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, spoke at TEDxWOMEN about why more women than men die from heart disease in the U.S.

Traditionally, the strategies to diagnose and treat heart disease were developed by men, for men, and in the 1980s researchers realized they simply weren't working for women, Dr. Merz says. But even though heart disease kills more women at all ages than breast cancer, we simply don't hear as much about women's cardiovascular health.

That might be due in part to the fact that young women with heart disease die from heart disease, while now, many women touched by breast cancer are surviving, she says. The advocacy on behalf of breast cancer now has to happen for heart disease, she says. "It's not happening, and it's time."

Watch the video above to hear more about why female heart disease so often goes unrecognized, plus the new advancements in testing and screening that are in the works.

For more on heart disease, click here.